Monday, January 25, 2010

AIA Chicago Chapter Bridge Program Comes to a Close

I wrote briefly of the Bridge Program in the past but haven't elaborated on it much. The intent was to pair Fellows of the AIA with emerging professionals to provide valuable mentorship. Upon its conception the mission was extended to include a community outreach project.

The bucolic setting of Frank Lloyd Wright's Frank J. Baker House.

Last Sunday the mentors and mentees were graciously invited by Walter Sobel, FAIA to his Frank Lloyd Wright designed Frank J. Baker house in Winnetka. Mr. Sobel, now in his 90's (this blog reported him to be 95 in 2008, although he doesn't look a day over 88 to me) shared some of his stories with us too. Aside from some physical ailments — he used a walker to get around — he seemed to be in good health with his mental faculties in check. Which lead me to thinking we ought to have a system in place to keep retired architects engaged with the profession. Here's a guy with 70-plus years of experience and no outlet for sharing them.

Note the bare essentials in the foreground.

Which brings me back to the bridge program. Over the last several months we mentees have been narrowing down and refining our ideas for what our community outreach project will be. The mentors dropped in from time-to-time to mingle and offer input. In the end we presented two proposals to the AIA Board of Directors who then agreed to foot the bill for us to attend the AIA Holiday Party.

The Mentor Mentee Mingle

The two programs we decided upon are a Community Interface Committee (CIC) and a group dedicated to working with a local church on a structure to support their efforts in urban farming. Here is the mission statement for the CIC:
The Community Interface Committee is dedicated to increasing the visibility and participation of architects within community groups and non-profit organizations.
The Committee will act as:
1. A network and forum for exchange of knowledge related to public interest work.
2. A point of contact for community groups and non profit groups that seek solutions.
3. A liaison between the AIA and established pro-bono design groups
4. Support for architects’ involvement in civic activities
And an interesting Matrix comparing the proposed services with those provided by local and national for-profit and not-for profit entities:

The inaugural meeting for the CIC will be on Feb. 23rd at the chapter offices of AIA Chicago. I'll keep you posted on the urban farming structure project.

So while those programs continue and carry on the legacy of the Bridge Program, it officially came to a close with the reception at Mr. Sobel's house. It was great to have some of the mentors out including Steve Burns, Dirk Lohan, Tod Desmarais, Peter Exley and his wife Sharon, Louis Garapolo, John Nelson, Jack Train, Dan Wheeler and AIA Chicago Chapter President Walter Street and AIA Illinois Delegate Laura Fisher.

Story time with host Walter Sobel, FAIA.

My thanks to the Sobels, the mentors that dedicated their time throughout the Program and attended the reception, and the AIA Chicago Chapter for taking on the initiative, lead by Matt Dumich, Mark Schwamel and Brett Taylor. It sounds like the Program has gotten other chapters to take notice.

Wright's typical Cathedral-like spaces following a low-ceiling entrance.

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